I have my last few days in Bangkok and with Ms Mason. It is an amazing place to stay, quirky, humid and full of contradictions. We spend our time shopping, meeting friends and trying to get taxi drivers to take us where we want to go. Taxis are cheap and plentiful but it depends on the driver as to whether he will take you to your destination. Sometimes he just doesn’t know where it is and Ms Mason has to direct him (and in Thai! I am so proud!). Sometimes he just doesn’t want to go there and laughs heartily at your suggestion. He might indicate traffic and say “no” on the basis that he doesn’t want to sit in it or that he doesn’t want to drive a longer distance. Unlike taxi drivers in London, they do not like long journeys as the meter does not make it worth their while. They do not like to turn around if they are driving in the opposite direction to your destination. And where taxi drivers do not wish to take you, tuk-tuk drivers will. I have only taken one tuk-tuk ride, simply because I find it such a struggle to get into one. There is a delightful pantomime where Ms Mason leaps aboard and then I realise I am unable to. The driver moves his tuk-tuk to the side of the kerb so I will have a step up but even then, it is a bit of a struggle. I manage to get in just before I think the driver is going to come round and haul me in manually. The Sky Train is wonderful – cool, clean and regular and a far cry from the Underground.
The trip home is interesting. My flight is at 10.10 in the morning which means a fairly early start. The condo where Ms Mason lives has lovely security people who summon a taxi very authoritatively and before I know it they have shown it where to park, stowed my luggage in the boot and opened the door for me to get in. No argument. On the way to the airport, the driver sticks an inhaler up his left nostril and leaves it there. A few minutes later, he swaps it to the other nostril and leaves it dangling. Ms Mason says this is quite common. At the check-in my luggage is just 1kg less than it was when I arrived so this is a relief, given all the lovely things I have bought. I wave sadly goodbye to Ms Mason, brush the tears away (seriously) and go through security which takes about 40 minutes. Waiting for my flight I eavesdrop on 2 English women who are returning home. They have awkward hand luggage which includes 2 parasols and they spend a lot of time fiddling about with it. The woman with over-bleached blonde hair says to her rather mousy companion “I’ve been inspired!” Just as I am wondering, her companion asks the very question I am pondering. “To do what?” “If I’m asked to go to Vietnam, I’ll go! It’s only the next country over. It’ll be the same but I’ll see different things”. So very Thai. Same same, but different.
This time I do not have any children sitting next to me, behind me or in front of me on the flight to Muscat but passengers behave oddly. Firstly, the inspired woman and her companion take AGES to stow their bloody parasols causing huge tailback in the aisle. One of the aircrew helps them and they don’t even say “thank you”. I do dislike rudeness. When I get to my seat I find another man in it. He asks if he can have my aisle seat and puts me in the window so I hope I will not need to be jumping up and down to the bathroom. There is quite a bit of room on the flight, though, and once again, there are men shouting to each other all over the plane and changing seats like anything. As soon as we have eaten, they are seeking out empty rows of seats in the middle and laying down to sleep.
When we arrive in Oman, the air seems positively cool after Bangkok’s clammy heat. Again, our friends with the parasols cause chaos again, dropping bags everywhere and not thanking those who help. We queue patiently behind them while they faff about. Our flight back to Heathrow leaves almost immediately and this time I have chosen an aisle seat in a row of 4. 2 of the other seats are taken so there is a nice empty seat beside me where I can put my bag and have a bit of space. The leg room on Oman Air is really good, even though I am not blessed with height, but it means when the seat in front is tilted back, it does not invade my space so much. Although I have a family sitting in front, the woman is very considerate and checks if it is OK for her to tilt her seat back. The child must be around 5 and thinks it is really amusing, when his parents aren’t watching, to lean over the seat and tap the screen of the woman sitting behind him. As they are touch screens, he seems to be continually changing the film she is watching which must be annoying but she is very tolerant and doesn’t
beat the crap out of him tell him off. The very tall man sitting behind me has, I think, learning difficulties. He keeps on stopping people who are walking past and speaking to them in Arabic. Well, I think it’s Arabic, anyway. Everyone he stops does not speak the same language and struggles to understand what he means. He then starts banging on the back of my seat and asking me the same question. I say patiently I don’t understand him and indicate he should ask one of the air crew who would be able to help and probably understand him. I put my headphones back on and no sooner done but he is tapping me on the arm and saying the same things. He can see I am frustrated and says “Bye bye!” in a loud, singsongy voice. He appears to be having lots of loud conversations on a mobile for the rest of the journey. Shortly before we touchdown, his parents appear from elsewhere in the plane and sit with him, settling him into his seat and putting his seatbelt on. As we are shuffling our way off the plane, I hear him talking to the air crew, thanking them and saying he will see them again in perfect English. Huh? I sense my initial diagnosis is correct.
Getting through passport control is swift and the bags come out quickly. I am so keen to see Mr Mason but when I get through customs, he is nowhere to be seen. I call him and find he is in a queue to park the car. He asks where I am. I don’t know any more than I am in Terminal 3 at Heathrow. Luckily he can see me and hurries over. Going to Bangkok represents the longest time I have ever been away from Mr Mason since 1978. I am so, so tired and know I won’t be able to eat when I get home. Travel always puts my stomach in turmoil. I manage to stay awake all the way home, telling him bits about the holiday and when I get indoors, I go upstairs to see for myself the decorating Mr Mason has been doing while I’ve been away. He looks rather dishevelled and has paint splatters on him but I don’t care. It was lovely to be away but it feels so good to get back home, too. And my bedroom is looking fabulous. If I told you how long it has been since it was decorated, you would never believe me. So I won’t.